Alternative parade caps St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South Boston

Crowds gather on West Broadway in South Boston to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Crowds gather on West Broadway in South Boston to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Patrick D. Rosso for

As the South Boston’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade wound down early this afternoon and parade-watchers began to disperse, the third annual alternative Veterans for Peace parade kicked off with a New Orleans-style jazz band.

Participants in the second parade held signs supporting the end of foreign wars and the release of Bradley Manning — jailed on accusations of giving documents to the website WikiLeaks — and opposing the Keystone Pipeline project.

Seven-year-old Aurora Pemper, of Hyde Park, sat on a curb wearing a green headband under her wolf-shaped winter hat.

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“My favorite was Darth Vader, because I wanna marry him when I grow up,” she said of the first group of marchers.

She also liked one of the main procession’s clowns, who walked a hotdog on a leash as if it were a real pet.

Her mother, Charissa Pemper, said she decided to bring her to see both the main and alternative parades for the first time.

“There was no way I was leaving without seeing the second one,” Pemper said. “I support a lot of the causes they represent. I think it’s a shame they aren’t allowed in the main parade. ... I wish more people would stay for both.”

Earlier in the day, 8-year-old Roger Samedo, who lives in South Boston, right on the parade route, watched from his perch on his street’s edge.

This is his favorite holiday, he said.

As marchers and floats passed his home, he eagerly collected beads, lollipops, and other tokens.

“I like everything,” Samedo said of the parade, “the candy, the music, the entertainment.”

“The coolest thing so far is the floats,” he said. “All of them.”

Sisters Dawn Neto of Warwick, R.I. and Joy Boutin of Westport had come to South Boston with their children this morning for their first Boston parade.

“I don’t even know what to expect,” Neto said.

They claimed a spot on Broadway shortly before 11 a.m. and waited under a fuzzy blanket on the curb as their children walked up and down the parade route before it began at 1 p.m.

“I didn’t dress warm enough, I had to go for the fashion statement,” Boutin said, showing off her thin kelly green pea coat.

Others seemed unconcerned with the brisk cool weather. Boutin watched a man in blue basketball shorts skateboard down the middle of Broadway.

“It’s freezing out, hello?” she called out.

Adam and Nancy Byrns came for the weekend from Baldwinsville, N.Y., for a late-winter road trip.

When Adam Byrns saw his 14-year-old daughter, Amanda, and her friend Amber Coy, 13, spray paint green streaks into their hair this morning before the parade, he decided to coat his normally brown-and-gray goatee with green paint.

“It’s so nice to see people take pride in their heritage like that,” said Nancy Byrns, who is originally from Chicago. “You guys really go all out—except for dyeing the river green. You’re gonna have to work on that.”

Boston police superintendent Daniel P. Linskey patrolled the parade route just ahead of the first procession, sniffing revelers’ cups for alcohol and pulling beer cans out of backpacks.

Officers followed him, writing citations for those caught drinking on the street.

“For the most part, we’ve got a responsible crowd here for a family event,” Linskey said.

Police had arrested a few people as of shortly after 1 p.m., he said, all on alcohol-related charges. None of the arrests were for violent or particularly unusual events, he said.

By 6:45 p.m., police had issued 336 citations for drinking in public and made 26 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct, according to a post on the department website.

Earlier this morning before the parade kicked off, at a staging area in the parking lot outside the Gillette World Shaving Headquarters, about 60 Star Wars fans, members of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion, put the final touches on their costumes as characters from the film series.

Bob Gouveia, 41, of Tewksbury, who has participated in the parade since groups started marching in 2004, stood on the edge of the crowd wearing a Darth Vader costume—minus the sinister black helmet.

Gouveia said Darth Vader is a favorite among parade watchers.

“The best reaction is actually little kids,” he said. “You think they would be scared, but they come up and hug you.”

Chris Meoli, 22, of Northborough, stood in a Navy dress blue uniform with his classmates from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. He said that he and the other men were excited about the holiday weekend, and Saturday night had been a late one for them.

Having taken a nap on the bus ride to South Boston, Meoli said he was feeling much better. But to Robert Meyer, the operations officer for the academy’s honor guard, the vibe of South Boston was all he needed.

“I love the energy of South Boston on St. Patrick’s Day,” Meyers said. “It’s so much fun. Really a vibrant community. Very energetic, and it’s fun to be a part of that.”